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Looking to upgrade from ATH-M50s

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

So a few years ago I picked up the ATH-M50s before they got real popular and the price skyrocketed on them (I got them on a closeout sale for $89).  When I got them I tested them to make sure they worked alright, then proceeded to break them in with white noise overnight for 3-4 nights before actually putting them on a testing them out. Loved em from the first time after that and they've only gotten better from there.

 

Today my ATH-M50s are well-used and have thousands of hours of listening on them. That being said I am looking for something to upgrade to from here. Something with a bigger sound stage and a broader range.  I find my M50s lack in the low end and tend to be a bit "tinny" sometimes.  I also need something closed-back as I use these in an office environment and I'd like to stick with circumaural cans as the on-ears tend to hurt after long periods of listening.

 

I listen to a wide range of music from various forms of Electronica (ambient, progressive, dubstep etc) to classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughn), and out to rockabilly and psychobilly and everything in between (like blues and classical).  I really need something that is going to make any of these styles sound good as I go back and forth between them frequently throughout the day, so I don't want to have to be constantly fiddling with my settings to get them all to sound good.

 

My budget is pretty broad, but I'd like to not get into it any more than $500 including all gear (amps, cords etc) and the headphones themselves.  My source is a new MacBook Pro 15" and I play most of my music through Spotify HD, which granted is not ideal, but then I don't expect the world either.  I'd like to keep the gear on the smaller side since it has to take up desk space and I have to lock it up and take it back out every day.

 

Any insight you guys could give me on gear would be great. You guys are the ones that suggested the ATH-M50s to me and you definitely didn't lead me wrong.  Hoping to get the same "sound" advice again (if you'll pardon the pun).

post #2 of 19

I haven't tried many closed headphones, but check out InnerFidelity.  See if any of these fits what you have in mind.  They all should be within your budget.

 

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame-full-size-sealed

post #3 of 19
How are the M50s lacking in the low end to you? Extension? Emphasis? Accuracy? And could you be happy with a headphone with a little less emphasis but better bass SQ?
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

How are the M50s lacking in the low end to you? Extension? Emphasis? Accuracy? And could you be happy with a headphone with a little less emphasis but better bass SQ?

Honestly not sure how to answer this because I don't really know enough to understand the three examples you used. It's missing "punch". The sound is there, it's just really soft and it gets drowned out by the mids.

 

As for the second question, I still want the clarity of the mids and highs for sure. Santana (or any good guitar solo) is not a pleasant listen without that clarity of sound in the top end.  I'm not looking for something like Beats where there's this huge bass but the mids and highs get muddled by it and you lose clarity. I just want to be able to have it be more prominent in the overall tone.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

After reading up a bit more it sounds like I need open cans to get the sound I'm after.  I don't mind having the sound leak from the outside (I actually need to be able to hear my team mates if they try to get my attention), my only concern would be sound leak from the cans bothering them. How much sound leak is there at normal listening levels from an open can?

 

I'm kind of thinking Philips Fidelio X1 if I can do open cans, or Shure SRH1540 if I can't.

 

Thoughts?

post #6 of 19
I haven't heard the X1, but I would bet that they would perform as well or better on "punch" than the M50s. And you could always use a little EQ to give them more punch.

I have the HE-400s which are a great headphone with bass emphasis. See this review and note how they rate compared to other headphones in that review list: http://www.head-fi.org/t/634201/battle-of-the-flagships-58-headphones-compared-update-audeze-lcd-2-revision-2-6-4-13#user_HE400 However, the X1s would be more comfortable.

Open cans do leak sound and provide zero isolation from your environment. It certainly wouldn't be more leakage than how closed headphones sound when off your head but playing. So you might try that with your normal listening levels and see what you think.

However, the soundstage in going to open headphones is really worth it. You'd be very impressed on the difference it makes, both for music and gaming.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

So you mentioned using an equalizer and just out of curiosity I decided to try and set one up on my Mac to see if I could get closer to the sound I was looking for out of my M50s.  I ran across this article on lifehacker and followed it. Once I had everything working I fiddle with the 10 channel EQ until I got the sound I that was closest to what I was looking for.  I ended up with an EQ that looks like this:

 

 

I've run some classic rock, electronica of varying types, and some blues through this EQ and I must say it has brought a lot of life out of these M50s I didn't know they had in them.  Much closer to what I am looking for, but I think I still want to some upgrades.

 

I tried out setting my headphones down at my usual listening volume to see what the sound was like, and that is definitely way too much for the quiet office I work on, so I think I am going to be stuck with closed backs for now.  Although I am kind of torn, I really want to hear some good open-back cans and I might just order some and try them out and if they are too loud I'll use them when I work from home and leave the M50s at work. Especially if the difference is THAT good between closed and open headphones.

 

Those HE-400s look killer.  Looking them up on Amazon it suggests I pick up a Modi USB Digital/Analog Convertor and a Magni Headphone Amplifier. What do these items do, will I get better sound using them, and what extra things do I need to hook them up if I get them? I noticed they both use RCA connections instead of the usual headphone plug I am used to, so I am guessing I would need some RCA cables such as the PYST RCA Cables.

 

Thoughts?

post #8 of 19
Yep. The HE-400s are in a whole different league from the M50s biggrin.gif

The HE-400s are planar magnetic drivers, which are highly resolving. So if you hook them up to a really good DAC/amp like the Modi/Magni you'll get better detail resolution and better bass texturing.

Yes. Those PYST cables will work fine.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

Would I notice any difference in sound if I went with the optical Modi over the USB version?

post #10 of 19
I doubt it. Some people would argue over whether USB or optical is better. I'm not one of them smily_headphones1.gif
post #11 of 19

The HE-400 is certainly a very good option, as cel4145 mentioned. The Sennheiser HD600 and HD650 are also two excellent headphones you should consider, although both are more expensive than the HE-400.

 

I don't know much about the Modi but optical vs USB shouldn't matter in terms of sound quality. They should sound identical, but I would go with USB just because it's more universal (more common among other components).

post #12 of 19

yeah, that's a debate somewhat on par w/ Mac vs. PC.

 

FWIW, the guys @ Schiit think optical is preferable to USB, and from a bit of testing myself, I would agree. 

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

Optical it is then. I'll have to put away money from a few more paychecks to be able to afford all this gear, but I think it will be worth it. Thanks for all your help guys.

 

Final Purchase List:

TOSLink to Mini TOSLINK optical cable (MacBook Pro to Modi)

PSYT RCA Cables (Modi to Magni)

Modi DAC

Magni Amp

HeadFiMan HE-400 headphones

 

Let me know if I'll need anything else.

post #14 of 19

Headphones with planar magnetic drivers are going to give you the punch you're looking for and 

I bet you'll like the HE-400s.

 

But here's the deal with open headphones in a work environment: others will hear them and some

will be bothered, even if (or is it especially because?) it's just on the edge of audibility.  With my M50s

I can totally rock out, getting the volume just how I like it.  With open cans, I've got to keep the volume

down.  YMMV.

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by flatmap View Post
 

Headphones with planar magnetic drivers are going to give you the punch you're looking for and 

I bet you'll like the HE-400s.

 

But here's the deal with open headphones in a work environment: others will hear them and some

will be bothered, even if (or is it especially because?) it's just on the edge of audibility.  With my M50s

I can totally rock out, getting the volume just how I like it.  With open cans, I've got to keep the volume

down.  YMMV.

 

Would the Focal Spirit Classics be a good alternative as a closed-back pair of cans?

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